For the last five years, Perturbator’s James Kent pursued a singular vision with his ’80s-influenced synthesizer music, one inspired by Neuromancer, Blade Runner, Terminator, and dystopic/cyberpunk anime like Akira and Bubblegum Crisis. The resulting albums, like I Am the Night and Dangerous Days, were packed with sleek, hard-edged electronic music that would be the perfect soundtrack for an apocalyptic post-Singularity war between cybernetically enhanced urban warriors and demonic machines.
But after five years, that vision has run its course, and so Kent’s shaking things up with New Model. No, he hasn’t traded in his synths and software patches for acoustic guitars and djembes. The music here is still electronic, it still paints a picture of a dark future, and it’s still intense.
The obviously ’80s anime, horror, and sci-fi-influenced sound, though, has been exchanged for something less predictable and nostalgia-driven. That, combined with the fact that New Model flowed out of a dark period in Kent’s life, makes the EP arguably the most difficult Perturbator release to date — but also one of the most intriguing.
Previous Perturbator releases often felt like guilty pleasures but New Model is clearly a transitional release, and as such, can be rough around the edges. This is particularly true on album closer “God Complex,” into which Kent packs what seems like a dozen different ideas and directions. The resulting song is sometimes exciting, sometimes frustrating, and at nearly ten minutes long, pretty exhausting.
Other songs, like the sweeping, epic-sounding “Birth of the New Model” and the sinister-yet-haunting “Vantablack” (which features the vocals of OddZoo) are a bit more polished and complete. And in their dark depths, you can hear plenty of interesting possibilities for the future of Perturbator.